PTC graduate Catherine Cossey shares her journey from wondering whether piano teaching is a viable career shift, to developing her own holistic and comprehensive piano syllabus and employing 11 staff members to help run The Piano School.
'Music was my passion from a young age, and I think it was clear to most people around me that I would go into music teaching in some way. Being a born planner, I had my whole career path mapped out by the time I was 14. I’d do my piano teaching diploma before I left school, study Music at university and do a PGCE in secondary music, eventually becoming a classroom music teacher by day and piano teacher by night.
Under the guidance of my own piano teacher, I started teaching at 15 and completed my teaching diploma by the time I was 17, before going on to study Music at Anglia Ruskin University. So far so good. The challenge came when I started my PGCE in secondary music and realised that classroom music was not for me. I dreaded going into school each day, and my long-envisaged career path no longer seemed like such a good idea. The highlight of my week was the few hours on Saturday morning when I taught my handful of piano students, and so a new plan began to form in my mind.
I knew that I loved teaching piano and I was confident that I was fairly good at it, but I had no idea if it was possible to make a career out of it. So, in 2008 I quit my PGCE course and started googling ‘courses for piano teachers’. That’s when I stumbled across The Piano Teachers’ Course [now the Cert PTC]. The idea of spending a whole year learning how to get better at piano teaching sounded too good to be true and I applied as soon as I could to start in September 2009.
The course was even better than I had imagined. I was challenged to think about my teaching in a whole new way, and each weekend I came away with more ideas than I could possibly implement. The tutors were so inspiring and supportive, and I made significant relationships that continue to this day. By the end of the year, I was not only convinced that piano teaching was my dream job, but I also had the confidence that I could make a career of it!
Soon after I finished the PTC in 2010, I reached the milestone I had dreamed of. My teaching practice had grown rapidly, and I found myself fully booked with an ever-growing waiting list. However, as my little business grew so too did my frustrations. My vision for my teaching was bigger than I was able to achieve on my own. I was tired of working by myself – I wanted to work with a team and to have colleagues around me.
I started talking to my husband about what the future of my teaching could look like, and in 2012 the doors to Catherine Cossey Piano Tuition opened. We started off as a team of 5 teachers working from our house, before moving to our own music centre in 2013. We rebranded to The Piano School in 2018 and continued to grow – today, I employ a team of 9 teachers, an administrator and finance officer.
This September, The Piano School celebrated its 10th anniversary and it certainly felt like a moment to celebrate! A lot has happened over those 10 years, both for me personally (I’ve had 2 children in that time!) and for the business. We’ve developed a successful curriculum that takes students from the beginner stage all the way up to Grade 8 and beyond. We’ve taught numerous wriggly little ones who have stayed with us until they went off to university as competent musicians. We’ve even started teaching international students via zoom! There have also been some incredibly challenging times when we weren’t sure if we were going to make it – navigating Covid and going through a global lockdown for one!
I recently received this email from a past student who is currently studying History and French at university: “My years with you and The Piano School were really very special and I still carry your lessons with me. I’m in France right now for a year abroad and one of the first things I did when I arrived here was seek out a piano practice room!” After all the ups and downs of the last 10 years, knowing that we have sent young people out into the world with a passion for music and the ability to play the music they love makes it all worthwhile. Here’s to the next 10!'
You can find out more about The Piano School through Catherine's website: www.thepianoschool.org.uk